Who's going to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday?
As usual, the names of this year's 241 candidates for the award have been kept secret, but that hasn't stopped the speculation. All the buzz is that one of the activists involved in the Arab Spring will get the phone call from Stockholm a few minutes before the official announcement.
According to insiders, the frontrunners include Israa Abdel Fattah, cofounder of April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, and Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim.
If any of them do win, they will be the youngest Peace Laureate ever, with all three in their late 20s or early 30s. The youngest to date is Irish peace campaigner Mairead Corrigan, who was 32 years old when she won in 1976.
The chairman of the prize committee Thorbjoern Jagland has given away a tantalizing hint to the Associated Press. "The most positive development will get the prize…for me it's obvious," he told the AP this week. "Not necessarily a big name, but a big mission, something important for the world."
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Other names said to be in the mix are Afghan human rights campaigner Sima Samar, Burmese opposition leader and previous winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and ex-German chancellor (and perennial nominee) Helmut Kohl.
Organizations can also be awarded the prize, and the Russian civil rights group Memorial, and the European Union, are believed to be in the running this year.
Nominations are made by an array of international academics, lawyers, previous winners, the Nobel Committee and others. They are not made public, although some are leaked by those who put their names forward.
A winner is chosen by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament, and the prize awarded in a ceremony in Oslo, which this year takes place on Dec. 10.
Incredibly, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini have all been nominated for the peace prize. Hitler was put forward in 1939 by a member of the Swedish parliament. Wisely, he later withdrew his choice. Stalin was nominated in 1945 for his efforts to end World War II. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times but never won the award.
Which begs the question: what exactly are the criteria for a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate?
The will of Alfred Nobel states that it should be awarded to the "person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
Inevitably, the Nobel Peace Prize attracts controversy. The most heavily criticized was in 1973 when the award was given to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho for their contribution to the peace negotiations in Vietnam.
Eyebrows were raised when President Obama was awarded the prize in 2009, less than a year after his election.
Last year's choice of Chinese dissident Liu Xiobo caused a diplomatic storm. Liu is still imprisoned in China on political charges.
Scholars believe that Alfred Nobel founded the annual awards in part to ease his own conscience. Most of his fortune came from the production of explosives for civil uses, but his inventions also led to advances in the military sector.
A final word: beware of hoaxes. Serbian television erroneously reported that this year's Nobel Prize in Literature went to Dobrica Cosic, after hackers posted a fake Nobel web site page naming the Serbian writer as the winner, minutes before the formal announcement in Sweden.